James McDonald's limekiln at Sebastapol Hill

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Here at TOTARATAHI, James McDonald, chastened by the insolvency he had gone through in Dunedin (including prosecution for theft of a few dollars worth of tools and trespass at his old lime burning property at Milburn)took a giant step back and built this very basic kiln on Fortification Road.

Originally of the quite conventional "castle" shape, the furnace survived in excellent order and is clear down to nearly the hearth. The kiln has been built with possibly roughly shaped rubble blocks and two of the faces have slumped. The hearth has been covered over with detritus from the slumped outer structure.


This from the NZ Cyclopedia of 1905


TOTARATAHI is the postal name of a splendid agricultural and pastoral district, which was formerly a part of the well known Totara estate, and includes the homestead. Both the main south road and the Christchurch-Dunedin line of railway intersect the settlement. There is a flag station on the line—still known as Totara—which is six miles from Oamaru, and stands at an elevation of eighty-two feet above sea level. At the census of 1901 the population was 176 persons, consisting chiefly of the families and servants of those who had bought portions of the Totara estate. A good deal of dairy farming is carried on, and a large creamery has been established at a central point on the main south road. In addition to its railway station, Totaratahi has a post and telephone office, and a church and public school, which serve the adjacent settlement of Alma. Large white stone quarries are energetically worked in the district, and limeburning is also one of the local industries. Totaratahi is in the Kakanui riding of the county of Waitaki.


Later of course, the shelly limestone which McDonald exploited would bear his name and the area around Totaratahi accorded the type location for McDonald Limestone - noted for its fossilised formanifera.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on June 4, 2011
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works
    by Bruce Comfort

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